Theft of PU heritage chairs: Carpenter Sarfraz remanded in seven-day police custody

Investigation suggested that Sarfraz is the middleman between the art smugglers and local thieves involved in the theft of heritage items in Chandigarh. Thieves handed over stolen items to Sarfraz and he further transported these to Mumbai.

Carpenter Sarfaraz, the accused arrested in connection with the theft of 48 heritage chairs from Panjab University, Tuesday was remanded in seven-day police custody for ascertaining his links with art and antique smugglers sitting in Mumbai.

Police also procured three-day custody of two others — Usha, alias Sweety, and Naresh Mittal — for the recovery of remaining heritage chairs. So far, 35 chairs out of 48 have been recovered.

Naresh was earlier arrested in the theft case of heritage chairs from General Hostel, Sector 15, in October 2016. Sources said Naresh, a resident of Sector 41, and his two uncles in Panchkula were also in touch with Mumbai dealers. Sources said Naresh is unemployed and deals in old furniture. Role of one of the relatives is also under the scanner. Usha too was earlier arrested in a case of heritage furniture theft reported from Chandigarh College of Arts, Sector 10.

“Investigation suggested that Sarfraz is the middleman between the art smugglers and local thieves involved in the theft of heritage items in Chandigarh. Thieves handed over stolen items to Sarfraz and he further transported these to Mumbai. Seven days’ police custody was procured for establishing the sequence of events,” a source said. The heritage chairs were stolen from PU last month.

Crime branch Inspector Harinder Singh Sekhon said, “Call detail records, account details and the income of Sarfraz are also being probed apart from exploring his links with the masterminds behind the theft of heritage items. We wanted to nail the main culprits.”

Sources said Sarfraz is being questioned in connection with earlier reported heritage item thefts too. There are chances of non-reporting of the theft of different heritage items to the Chandigarh Police. In 2016, an accomplice of Naresh had disclosed that they had stolen two heritage chairs from the building of a government department in Sector 17. The matter was not reported to the police.

The Indian Express had highlighted in a report, dated October 22, that Chandigarh Police always failed to nail heritage smugglers sitting outside Chandigarh.

In February 2016, the Directorate of Revenue of Intelligence (DRI) had arrested a US-based Indian born businessman, Vijay Nanda, for smuggling French architect Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret’s designed furniture related to Chandigarh out of the country.

Nanda was arrested in Mumbai. The DRI investigation had revealed Nanda’s close links with a PCS officer, who was once posted as Director of Chandigarh Museums, from 2007 to 2011.

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